Those two simple words can make any mother cringe.
And rightfully so, since usually potty training a child can require some work, and can get messy at times. But it definitely isn’t something to fear and it is absolutely an obstacle you can overcome. Once it’s all said and done for, you’ll be standing there with your arms crossed in front of you, a triumphant smile engrained on your face thinking, why did I ever doubt myself?
I went through potty training twice with my two toddlers so I’ve got a few tips I’d like to share with you that worked for me in the battle within the bathroom. (Heehee). See what I did there?
Every Child Potty Trains Differently
Now I will say this, and please keep this in mind, every child is different and so is every parent. So what worked for me might not work for you and that is okay. Every child has their different preferences, and the time and procedure it takes to potty train your child can vary from the kid down the block. So please, don’t feel discouraged if you hear from other parents that their child was using the toilet all by themselves and not wetting the bed a moment after by the sweet and obviously independent age of eight months, (drum beat).
Potty Training or Parent Training?
Your child taking a little longer than the next kid to learn to use the toilet independently doesn’t mean that we have failed at efficiently potty training our little ones or that our child will never learn. They will learn, but oddly enough through this process we, as adults, are learning too. We are learning more about our children, their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. We are learning about ourselves as parents, measuring our patience levels, swimming our way through feelings of frustration, doubt, pressure, wet beds, poopy car seats and in all of this we are developing in our character. We are developing in our endurance and tenacity as mothers. I will expand on this in the future. Didn’t know you were being trained while you were doing the potty training, did ‘ya? Well, my friend, now you know. =)
My Experience With Potty Training Two Toddlers
The First Child Was A Breeze
So before I list out my tips and tricks let me explain quickly about my experience with potty training my two toddler girls. With ‘Big Girl’ (my oldest) I began potty training at around 20 months or 1 ½ years old. I had recently given birth to ‘Little One’ (who was about 2 months old at the time). I started potty training Big Girl a little late (I know some people begin as early as one years old) because she was a very small child and physically I didn’t think she could handle the toilet just yet. To add to that- I was simultaneously breastfeeding a newborn so I found myself procrastinating on potty training. I was just too tired to do it.
I finally decided to potty train Big Girl when she was showing me definite signs that she was ready to learn. I’ll share with you what those signs are in a sec. So immediately I began sitting her on the toilet in our bathroom but soon I realized that doing so drained too much energy out of me. With a high needs infant in my arms and me being sleep deprived with leaky breasts, I just couldn’t pull myself up out of bed every time she needed me to place her on the toilet. That is what led me to quietly revert back to placing diapers on Big Girl for another month; I was just too exhausted and couldn’t deal. I figured it was easier for me to change both of my girls’ diapers at the same time instead of toggling between bathroom and pampers between the two.
But a month later I decided to try again and this time I stormed into Toys R Us and purchased a small stand-alone toilet for toddlers. I was determined for victory. And victory was mine. To my surprise, Big Girl soon enough was fully potty-trained. She used the small toilet in a week and a half and I did not have one potty accident after that. If I knew that she would learn so fast, I would have began training her earlier and implemented the small toilet from the beginning. I would have stayed consistent throughout the process instead of taking that small hiatus where I wallowed in self-doubt wondering if I’d ever be able to teach Big Girl to use the potty.
The Second Child Was A Little More Complicated
With Little One, it was a whole other story. I began potty training Little One when she was two years old, so Big Girl at the time was three. Since Little One accompanied Big Girl to the restroom often, she was already familiar with the process of using the bathroom. So, thinking back to my previous experience with Big Girl, I went out and purchased another small toilet to begin our potty training. The first day, Little One fought and fought-she did not want to potty train. She wanted to stick with what she was used to- which were the diapers. One the second day she was demanding to use the big toilet. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.
Little One caught on fast but she required that I (and only I) follow her to the bathroom every… single… time she had to go and for me to hold her hand. Even if I was standing at the door, it wasn’t good enough for her. And although Little One caught on quickly to using the big toilet, I did have issues with potty accidents for a very long time after. She would wet the bed at night on multiple instances during the week and there would be days where she didn’t make it to the toilet on time and peed on her herself. She would request to use the potty constantly while we were out and about running errands or at the park and yes, I even had a couple of poopy car seats. So although Little One is completely potty trained now and uses the big toilet, currently at the sweet and tender age of almost three years old, I have her wearing pull-ups every time we step out the front door. She doesn’t wet the bed as much anymore, but she does have her accidents from time to time. So as a precaution I have her wearing pull-ups at bedtime too. We’ll talk more about that in a sec.
My Tips And Tricks On Potty Training
1. Watch For Signs That Your Child Is Ready To Potty Train
Sometimes you may wonder if your child is mentally or physically ready to begin potty training. It’s not like they’re out right telling you-“Hey ma! I needs to start sittin’ on that pot-pot over there! Let’s get ‘ta trainin’ and stat, capiche?!”
If only if it were that simple and direct. But your child will begin to show small signs that they are ready to move from diapers to big kid seat in the bathroom in many different ways.
Keep an eye out for these signs for the green light to begin the potty training process:
- You are able to predict your child’s bowel movements throughout the day. Like, there’s a routine and a sort of rhythm. You might notice that it is usually right after a meal or just after waking up from a nap. This will make it a ton easier to know when to place him/her on the toilet.
- As soon as your child dirties their diaper, they let you know. They might tell you when they are just about to, in the middle of, or have just finished popping or peeing in their diaper. This is because your little one is beginning to feel uncomfortable in their own mess and they are communicating that to you with words, complaining, or crying.
- If they are following you (or anyone else for that matter) into the bathroom and are displaying actions of curiosity and intrigue with the bathroom routine. If they are helping you flush before you reach for the handle, passing you toilet paper or reminding you to wash your hands-it’s time to get to teaching.
- If they are going to the bathroom when you go and make a poop or pee in the their diaper when you use the toilet.
- They are able to undress themselves to some extent. If they know how to pull up their shirt and hold it under their chin, or pull down their pants- then they are already capable of meeting you half-way in the toilet training process.
- They hide when they poop or pee in their diaper. This means they are beginning to understand that privacy is needed when they are urinating or defecating.
- They are wetting their diaper less. That means your child is beginning to hold their pee and practicing control of their bladder.
- When your child is sticking their fingers in their diaper and showing you poop to tell you they pooped …yep, it’s time to start training.
Prepare Your Child For Potty Training
2. Prepare With Prayer
I believe before you begin potty training you should prepare yourself for what’s to come. Potty training can be stressful. It can also be emotionally and physically draining. It’s important to have the back up and guidance from Our Higher Power. Spiritually prepare yourself with prayer. Pray to The Lord for unending patience during the times when you feel frustrated, keeping in mind that this is all new to your child just as much as it is for you. Pray for a spirit of consistent perseverance in times when you may feel like giving up. Pray for endurance to keep up with whatever your potty training days throw at you, (like midnight runs to the bathroom with your toddler). Pray for understanding to figure out how your child communicates and what they are trying to tell you from their non-verbal cues. Pray that He guides you in figuring out what will work for your little one and pray that your little one will catch on quickly .
3. Prepare With Open Conversation
It’s also great to start talking to your little one about how they will begin potty training soon before you begin. I began discussing with Little One about potty training two months before I started training her. This way, she knew it was something we were going to embark on soon instead of being something thrown at her from the woodwork. At first she would say she didn’t want to learn and then eventually she began getting excited and saying, “Yes, mama! My will use the toilet like a big girl!.”
(*sigh* I just adore the sweetness of toddler talk).
You can start borrowing books from the library about potty training and playing videos that are geared towards children that talk about learning to use the bathroom. My favorite potty training episode that was on constant replay in my home was from Daniel Tigers Neighborhood on PBS. This episode covers every detail of using the potty with a sing-a-long. It will be comforting to your child to know that they are not the only one who is learning but that all children go through this and that success is in arms reach. Be sure to make the whole ordeal sound exciting, as if it were a huge milestone …because it is!
4. Prepare By Doing Your Research
Ask your friends what worked for them with their little ones so that you can collect their first hand advice for their experiences. Are you a part of any mommy groups on Facebook? In the mommy group page you are involved in, use the search box to the left of the page to type in “potty training” so that you can be directed to previous posts about training toddlers to use the toilet. By doing this you can read everyone’s opinions that are in the group that have posted about this topic before. You can also post a question about potty training on the wall of groups like these and I’m sure you will have tons of comments within an hour with what did and did not work for each mother.
Search YouTube videos, borrow library books or look up blog posts (like mine) that talk about potty training. I really enjoyed how helpful and honest Brandi’s perspective on how her potty training journey with her little one went here in this article on her blog.
Now, you may come to find that there is so much information out there and it can be overwhelming to try to figure out which one will work for you. I can promise you that half of the stuff you come across might not work for you. But half of the stuff you come across may be useful to you. Find out where you want to start experimenting and really read into the attitudes each mother has towards potty training. I think the winning attitude that can be agreed on all boards is that patience and persistence will get you far.
5. Stock Up For The Battle
I would also suggest preparing yourself with items that will help smoothen the process.
- Pull-ups or training underwear
- Paper towels/ towels (to clean up messes)
- Step stool (to use when washing their hands or using the big toilet)
- Carpet cleaner
- Small toilet or kids portable toilet seat (if you plan on using one)
- Reward treats like stickers or cookies (I personally did not use reward treats when I was potty training but if it is in your plan-go for it)
- Waterproof mattress cover for potty accidents (I wish I got one when we were training our little ones)
- Puppy pads (I did not use puppy pads but some do in their methods)
- Dress your child in potty training attire. This can be just a shirt and pull-ups, just underwear, pants and no top, or no clothes at all-whatever you prefer
It’s Potty Training Game Time
Pick a time where you can set aside everything and just focus on potty training. Most people choose a weekend to begin potty training because there are usually two parents at home to toggle between responsibilities. This is especially useful when there is more than one child in the house to tend to. These first few days you should be prepared to put aside errands, social engagements, and visitations. It should be just you, your child(ren) and the potty training at hand.
Since I am a stay at home mom I decided to start at the beginning of the week on a Monday. I figured that since I was always at home anyways and handled most of the child related activities on my own, that I could begin it alone and let my husband pitch in during the weekend. I survived, and if you choose to do it this way I’m sure you can too.
Now remember, every child is different- so determining when your child will catch on is like trying to pin point exactly how long until you’ll have to replace the toilet paper roll in your bathroom. Sometimes it can take a few days, a week, a few weeks or even a month or two (thank goodness for jumbo size toilet paper rolls). The key is to stay consistent and patient.
6. Positive Reinforcement Does Wonders
When your child is learning to use the bathroom it is your role to be their personal cheerleader. Cheering them on and encouraging them every time they make an improvement builds their self-esteem and excites them to impress you even more. When they poop or pee in the toilet for the first time, celebrate like you just paid your mortgage off for life or won a million dollars. I mean, the milestone is worth just about the same, if not more anyways. You were able to be there for their first big accomplishment in the potty training stage and that, in itself , is a blessing from The Big Guy Above.
7. Brag About Your Little One
Let your little one hear you brag to your partner or family members about how your child is learning to use the bathroom on their own and talk loudly about how well they are catching on to others around you. By your child being able to over hear that you are so vocal about their accomplishments, they will know that their success is more than just what mommy or daddy sees, but that it is a big enough deal that it’s being shared with other people around them as well. Now they feel like they’ve done something huge when other people join in the celebration. You’ll be doing this again when you child earns his or her drivers license in the future as well, so get comfortable bragging about your little one-they like it.
How To Handle Potty Training Accidents
When you’re in the middle of potty training, accidents are bound to happen. It’s a part of the whole deal. What I will say is once your child begins to potty train, they will not like the feeling of pee or poop on them so they will tell you about it right away so that they can get cleaned up.
Once they realize that every time they pee, the pee will run down their leg and they will be stepping in it, they will begin exercising holding their pee until they get to the toilet. Sometimes they wont make it to the toilet on time, but that it okay. Each mistake is a lesson learned and a step closer to the goal of full independence.
Remember, children’s bladders are so much smaller than ours and are not fully trained. This means our little ones can only hold just a tiny portion of what we are able to hold and for a much smaller amount of time.
8. Let Them Help Clean Up
Once your little one makes a pee on the floor by mistake, have them help you clean it up. It doesn’t degrade them in anyway. It teaches your child responsibility and also reinforces why they need to continue to practice making it to the toilet on time. By doing this they will pay attention to the feelings of having to use the toilet a lot sooner and act before its too late.
9. Watching For Signs of Needing To Go Potty
Toddlers are notorious for putting off using the toilet in hopes that the feeling will go away. Either their too busy playing with their toys and don’t want to stop, are too tired to get up out of their seat, or just don’t realize they even have to go until you ask them if they have to. And even if they say no…trust your instincts and tell them to try. That is why I love the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood show because there is an episode that demonstrates Daniel ignoring the need to go to the potty and they discuss why he needs to pay attention to his body’s warning signals.
Here are some signs that your little one may need to go to the potty:
- Your child begins to get restlessness. They may begin to do what they call “The Potty Dance” where your child is fidgeting around more than usual
- If your child is squeezing or grabbing at their genitals or pulling at their pants.
- Your child might outright say words like “pee-pee”, “pot-pot”, “toilet”, “poopy”, or something of the matter. Keep an ear out for key words.
- Your child might be hopping back and forth, to and from the bathroom or hanging around the bathroom. This can be a sign of hesitance to experiment independently with the toilet.
- Moving from one foot to another while standing.
- Facial expressions that show the sign of perhaps being uncomfortable or holding something back.
- Passing wind right before having to go poo.
- Silence. This one is a big one for me. Every time I noticed my little one would suddenly get really quiet …I would hurry her to the bathroom before she peed on herself.
10. Document The Process
I know this might sound silly to some people but I recommend this only because it made it a whole lot more fun for me. Some people might say that documenting the potty training experience is just another task to complicate the whole ordeal. Others might not see the value out of doing it. If that is your perspective, I totally can understand and I will say that this is not a must-do for every mom.
But for me it was.
Vlog about it (for your families eyes only, of course)
Write about it.
Like I mentioned earlier in this article, make the whole potty training experience as if they received their drivers license or high school diploma because it is a pretty big deal.
What I mean about vlogging about potty training your little one is to record videos of your journey from day one. How you prepared, the battle for the bathroom, your thoughts and frustrations, and the big winning celebration. This video series won’t be something you post on YouTube or social media (you don’t want to embarrass your child and exploit their most private moments to the world) but for many reasons outside of that. Record the potty training process to show your child when they get older. Record the potty training process to show your partner when they get home from work. This is especially useful if your significant other was not able to be home when your little one used the toilet for the first time. By being able to have a visual recording of the first time your child used the toilet successfully or the process of getting to that point, your partner will feel like they didn’t entirely miss out on the milestone. Recording the whole process can also be cathartic for you. It is therapy to talk into the camera about what you are going through and at the end of it all see how all of your efforts led to your child’s independence in the bathroom.
You can write about it in a diary or take a ton of pictures and place them in a milestone photo album for your little one too. Documenting the potty training process makes the whole journey much sweeter and valuable rather than a tiresome task.
The Aftermath of Potty Training
After you have potty trained your child and you feel like they have successfully got the hang of using the toilet without your help, you may feel like you are in the clear completely.
I wish this could be true for all of you reading this but unfortunately it is not. Our toddlers are little people and accidents come often with little people. So after the big celebration of your little one being toilet trained, please do not set the expectation that your child will never have a potty accident from time to time.
How To Prepare For Potty Accidents
- Always pack an extra pair of clothes, underwear, wipes and pull-ups.
- It’s your choice if you want to have your little one wear pull ups overnight for bed wetting accidents and when you have long rides out of the house. I chose to. My family and I went on a road trip that was eight hours long. I had Little One wear a pull up for the road trip, (even though we took breaks to go to the rest stops to use the rest room), just incase she couldn’t hold it. And let me tell you, I’m so glad I did that.
- Opt for the waterproof bed wetting liner for your toddlers bed, just incase.
- Don’t be upset if they make a mistake. Don’t scold them or punish them. Talk kindly and openly about it. Ask them to help clean up and have them try to figure out why the accident happened. Did they drink too much water? Did they ignore the feeling that they had to go pee? Were they just too tired to get up? Once they begin to go through the thought process of what led to the accident they can begin to build the skills to prevent it.
- Be sure that you remind your toddler to use the toilet during times like right before going to bed, before leaving the house, or before bath time.
Prayers For The Potty Training Mama
Although potty training can have it’s highs and low’s I do want to remind you that it is only for a season. Your child will learn to use the toilet all by themselves in no time. In an upcoming article I will share the different methods to potty train your little one in case you are looking to weigh out your options.
In the mean time, I pray you have the motivation to stick it through and not fall into the trap of inconsistency. Don’t give up! Success is right around the corner.
I pray that The Lord keeps your lips from complaints and for your little one to catch on quickly to the toilet teachings.
I pray that The Lord blesses you with the physical strength to get up and help your child in the bathroom when you don’t feel like it in the middle of the night or during the wee hours of the day. And I pray that you have unending patience in the potty training journey. That you really tune into being in the very moment of this very precious part of your child’s life. Please remember that all of this may be a ton of hard work and effort from you but to your child it is an excitingly HUGE milestone of independence.
I know you will do fantastic, mama!
If you are beginning the potty training journey comment below and let me know what are your thoughts on the tips that I shared in today’s article. If you have already potty trained your little one, what tips can you add that can help another potty training mama in need of some advice? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!